So apparently the past 12 months haven't just been a weird fever dream, and we are in fact in the year 2022. While that sounds a little suspicious to me, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to reflect on all of the boxes, bags, and limited edition sets that I reviewed for MSA in 2021. Because of who I am as a person, I started taking a look back at everything I reviewed in 2021 by first counting to see how many products I reviewed this year. By my math, the products from all of those boxes add up to a substantial 977.
Honestly, I'm surprised that my fingers haven't fallen off from typing so many reviews. And I'm suddenly more grateful for the boxes that send repeat products and my years of loving makeup and skincare before I was lucky enough to start writing here. All of that aside, it actually wasn't too difficult to narrow it down to the one(ish) percent of products that rose above all of the rest.
Without further ado, here are the best of the best of what I tried in all of 2021.
My Top 10 Beauty Products from 2021
1. Herbivore Botanicals Pink Cloud Rosewater + Tremella Creamy Jelly Cleanser, 100 mL – Retail Value $24
The Box it Came From: AIA Beauty September 2021
The September box from AIA Beauty was actually my first introduction to the subscription box brand, and I am hoping to see more of them in 2022. Herbivore Botanicals is a skincare brand with some of the most beautiful glass packaging in the game. Cleansing, on the other hand, is the skincare step I enjoy the least, and there aren't many cleansers out there that spark joy for me. This cleanser from Herbivore is one of the few that I have ever tried (977 products in 2021 alone, remember?) that strikes the right balance of being creamy without being so heavy it feels suffocating, cleansing without being stripping or drying, and it's very gentle and hydrating. The heavy glass bottle can be a little slippery if you're grabbing it with wet hands, but it's clattered to the floor of my shower on more than one occasion and hasn't shattered yet (thankfully). I usually reach for this cleanser after applying a cleansing oil or balm to remove my makeup first, but if I'm not wearing makeup this is effective enough to get the job done on its own while also being my go-to cleanser if my sensitive skin is acting up.
2. StriVectin Hyaluronic Omega Moisture Lip Mask, 0.3 oz – Retail Value $28
The Box it Came From: Skinstore x Dealmoon Limited Edition Box
I love lip masks and have at least four different opened jars on my vanity that I can think of off the top of my head- one of them being this little purple jar from StiVectin. I guess technically lip masks started as being a lip treatment you applied at night time (don't quote me, I am no beauty historian), but in general, I prefer to use lip masks at all times of day and I like using this StriVectin one specifically in the mornings. That's because while this is a super moisturizing lip mask thanks to ingredients like omega-rich fatty acids, raspberry seed oil, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and jojoba oil, it's also one of the glossiest lip masks I've tried. I have genuinely tried lip glosses that did not have the shine that this lip mask offers, and I love to apply this on mornings when my lips feel dry because the boost of shine this mask gives me helps me feel a touch prettier. This lip mask has a thinner texture than most lip masks out there, so I actually go through this jar a lot more quickly than I do others. I am currently on my backup jar, and I will be sad when it's empty because I need to work more through my stash before I can justify spending money to repurchase this.
3. Earthwise Beauty Nap in the Meadow Face Serum, 1 oz – Retail Value $64
The Box it Came From: Petit Vour August 2021
This serum makes me think of cottage core, white cotton dresses, and streaming Taylor Swift's Folklore album. Some of you will get this and some of you will think I am insane, and I am okay with that. Anyways, this serum cracks the best of the best for a few reasons. For one, I was just so freaking stoked to see a full-size Earthwise product in my $18 vegan beauty box because I had been wanting to try the brand for a while. For two, this serum has a lot of goodness inside of it that my skin really loves. I am a little more than 2/3's of the way through this bottle, and I have mainly been using this in the mornings as an antioxidant serum that also has ingredients to help with soothing my sensitive skin. Packed inside of this aloe-based serum we have turmeric, yarrow, and German blue chamomile which are great for anti-inflammatory purposes. This also has two types of lavender, geranium, elderberry, Bosnian helichrysum oil. It has an earthy smell to it almost like a spring meadow, and this is just an all-around beautiful product.
4. MZ Skin Soothe & Smooth Collagen Activating Eye Complex, .47 oz – Retail Value $143
The Box it Came From: Skinstore Expert's Choice Set
I had a similar experience with this eye cream that I did with the cleanser. Traditionally, eye creams weren't a skincare product that excited me- and they're still not going to make me jump for joy. But this little pink jar showed me just how much potential an eye cream has when it comes to helping your skin. I don't have smile lines or crow's feet that I need an eye cream's help with, but I am prone to getting cracked lips in the corners of my mouth. On a whim one night I decided to apply this eye cream to both the delicate skin around my eyes as well as the delicate skin in the corners of my mouth, and I applied a lip sleeping mask on top. I noticed such a difference the next day that I made this a part of my nightly routine, and the painful cracks that felt like they would never go away finally healed. Eye cream for my eyes and lips is now a must-have part of my evening routine unless I am feeling too sleepy to care, and my skin truly enjoyed using every last drop of this small pink jar.
5. ClarityRX Good To Go 3-in-1 Facial Treatment Pads, 20 ct – Retail Value $28.00
The Box it Came From: Ipsy Haul: Female Founded Faves
These facial treatment pads from ClarityRX are everything makeup wipes wish they could be. Okay, if you have a full face of makeup these are not actually going to help you, but if you're looking for a premoistened towelette full of great skincare benefits to make it easy to cleanse and hydrate your skin on the go, this is exactly what you're looking for. This wipe first is able to gently cleanse your face with micellar water, and it also has a hydrating boost of hyaluronic acid and antioxidants from vitamin C. I used these after working out when I wanted to feel refreshed, after traveling where I didn't have time to shower but wanted to refresh my skin before throwing some makeup on, and on nights when I was too tired to do any skincare routine beyond wiping this on my face and falling into bed. These were gentle on my skin, incredibly convenient, and I felt like my skin enjoyed these enough for me to believe that this is truly more than just a micellar wipe; it's hydrating and treating my skin the way a serum would too.
6. Supergoop! Glowscreen Sunscreen SPF 40 PA+++, 0.50 oz – Retail Value $17.00
The Box it Came From: Sephora Favorite's Clean Me Up Set
This sunscreen is aptly named- it truly leaves my skin absolutely glowing. On more than one occasion when I wore this sunscreen, I had people compliment my skin- and that's because this sunscreen makes my skin look good. It has a very slight tint to it along with some pearlescent pigment, and when the sun hits my cheekbones it is *chef's kiss*. I try to wear sunscreen every day so I go through it quite a bit, and the dewy, glowy finish this sunscreen gives my skin always makes me feel like I am a little more put together on those days where I can't be bothered to deal with makeup. If I have a regret when it comes to this product, it's that I didn't actually try it sooner.
7. Complex Culture Plush Powder Brush – Retail Value $35.00
The Box it Came From: Ipsy Glam Bag Plus
I have fallen in love with all of the Complex Culture makeup brushes. I've been able to build almost a collection thanks to my Ipsy Glam Bag Plus subscription, and I adore how soft and fluffy they are and think the performance is awesome. Honestly, the quality is definitely comparable to some expensive makeup brushes I already own, and I do think the Complex Culture makeup brushes as a whole are the best quality makeup brushes I personally have received in a subscription box. But this plush powder brush is specifically on my top ten list because of just how fabulously plush this brush is. It's perfect for loose finishing powder; I use this with my Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder and I love the duo so much I actually used the swap site to swap for a second brush to have as a backup.
8. Knesko Diamond Radiance Face Mask – Retail Value $45
The Box it Came From: Skinstore Holiday Edit
Y'all all probably know by now that I truly love sheet masks, and I can't lie and say I wasn't excited about trying a boujie new one in this edit. But y'all, I truly think this may have been the single best quality sheet mask I have ever used in my life. Let's be honest- at $45 a pop we would all hope so, but that doesn't mean it's a guarantee for expectation to match up with reality. But I loved everything about this Knesko mask- the hydrogel material was so thick that after I took thirty selfies in the fun pearlescent mask, I wore it for two hours and it was cooling bliss the entire time. I honestly thought I never would be able to enjoy the mask again because the price is truly so unaffordable, but shout out to MSA reader JojoB, who commented on my review and let me know these masks were 70% off during a Boxycharm sale. I grabbed a box for special occasions (even 70% off a box of 4 was $24, which is still isn't that cheap) along with a box of a different type from the brand and a box of their eye gels, and I was downright giddy.
9. Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream, 50 mL - Retail Value $42
The Box it Came From: Ipsy Glam Bag Plus
This gel cream from Then I Met You is on my top 10 list for a few reasons. The first is that this is a trendy K-beauty brand I had been seeing really great things about on Ipsy, and I had been wanting to try it for a while. I had never seen it appear in a subscription box before, so to get in my IGBP was really exciting. Then, I actually tried it- and my sensitive skin fell in love. The texture is a very thin gel cream. I prefer to use it as a serum on my dry skin or as a super lightweight moisturizer under a hydrating sunscreen, but those with oily skin will probably love this as their whole moisturizer. This was made for all skin types, but it has some calming ingredients that my sensitive skin absolutely loves like ceramides, niacinamide, and madecassoside. This is actually another product I swapped for a backup of on the swap site. It's a good thing, too, considering my first bottle is completely empty!
10. Lapcos Calming Bikini Mask – Retail Value $7
The Box it Came From: Birchbox Set For Summer Set
I am relatively new to the world of waxing, and truly I am glad I didn't have to go long before I discovered the Lapcos bikini mask through the limited edition Birchbox summer set. This is exactly what it sounds like- a sheet mask for your bikini area. I suppose you could mask that area any time you want to, but this mask really shines if you use it after getting a bikini wax when the skin is sensitive and a little inflamed. This mask is cooling (I didn't even need to stick it in the fridge), covers a lot of surface area, and is incredibly gentle (no irritation over here). If you don't wax but get razor burn or go all-in for a tan free from bathing suit lines that turn sunburned instead of suntanned, I think this mask would feel equally amazing. I don't get waxed super frequently, but I love these enough that I bought a few to have on hand for when I need them.
And there we have it: my best of the best from the year 2021. Honestly, sitting down to write this roundup only solidified just how much I loved every product on this list. I would love to know what your favorite subscription box discoveries of 2021 are- we actually have a thread on this topic over on the MSA forum, and we would love for you to come over and join our conversation. As of now, the forum is invite only while we are still in beta testing- let us know if you’d like an invite to check it out!